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Hotel Gardening: Keep the Green In Your Lawn And Wallet

By Ken Hutcheson, President, U.S. Lawns

In today’s economy, staying within budget while keeping a landscape looking beautiful can seem impossible. But a healthy, attractive landscape does not have to break the bank. Making smart choices, such as conserving water through efficient irrigation systems and tailoring a scope of work specific to the needs of a hotel property can help cut costs in the long term. Also, taking easy, extra steps to maintain the health of plants will lessen the likelihood that landscape renovation will be necessary. By utilizing the tips below, a hotel owner or manager can help preserve a healthy landscape that retains its maximum value while generating cost savings over the long-run. Keys to achieving a desired result rely in having an acute sense of awareness and understanding of the needs of a landscape and partnering with the right commercial landscape management professional.

Water Conservation

Wasted water is wasted money. With water demands rising and frequent droughts threatening supply, responsible water use is a smart business practice and an essential component of environmentalism. Irrigation audits are one way to ensure that a hotel property is realizing the maximum benefits of its irrigation system. After assessing a hotel’s current irrigation system and identifying any inefficient components, a landscape professional will consider the area size, local climate, sun exposure and specific plant varieties in determining the most appropriate and cost-effective irrigation program for a property. Tailored systems cut annual water costs significantly and some systems even qualify for tax credits. Investment in an irrigation audit and implementation of the proper system are effective ways to maintain a beautiful landscape without draining unnecessary natural and fiscal resources.

Sufficient hydration is key to maintaining the health and appearance of a property’s landscape. There have been significant developments in irrigation technology, which allows landscape professionals to design customized systems. Because these systems are based on a particular property’s needs, they will produce not only reduced water usage, but lower ongoing maintenance expenses.

The “smart” controller is the most technologically advanced development in water conservation on the market today. Regardless of how efficient an irrigation controller’s watering schedule is, it must respond to the always-changing weather conditions—specifically rainfall and evapotranspiration (ET)—to protect the health of the landscape and gain maximum efficiencies. ET is the amount of water lost from the soil through evaporation plus the plant’s water loss (known as transpiration); both are dramatically affected by weather conditions. A smart controller uses current weather and ET information to water a landscape only when needed. Smart controller systems work with virtually any controller, converting a conventional irrigation system into one that is weather-smart and self-adjusts according to accurate real-time weather data. As the weather changes, a smart controller receives automatic hourly updates and prevents the controller from watering unless needed. This results in significant water savings and a healthier landscape.

For those who want to stay on the cutting edge of water conservation technology, the answer may be investing in moisture sensors. Moisture sensors are designed to detect the moisture levels in the soil, making it the most efficient method of watering. Moisture sensors will continuously measure soil and only allow a watering cycle when the moisture drops below a certain, customized, threshold. So while a “smart” controller that measures rainfall may still allow a watering cycle the day of or the day after a rain storm, regardless of rainfall amounts, a moisture sensor will accurately read the moisture level in the soil and will keep the watering system turned off until the excess moisture has dissipated. The biggest detractor of these moisture sensors are the initial purchase and installation costs; however, due to their extremely efficient ability to determine how much moisture is in the soil and how often watering is needed to maintain a beautiful landscape, they pay for themselves, saving precious dollars on water bills.

Landscape Renovation

Every landscape undergoes changes that make it less attractive or less functional as it matures and responds to the stresses of the artificial environment that encompasses a property. Over time, the condition of the landscape may deteriorate to a point where it does not meet brand standards. While this may seem like a hassle, it is actually an opportunity to renovate all (or a portion) of a landscape and incorporate changes that may enhance the appearance of the property while increasing efficiencies in water usage and maintenance requirements.

While it is an important element, beauty is not everything when it comes to landscaping. It is equally important for a landscape to be intelligently designed. This means taking ease of maintenance, sustainability, and water usage into consideration. These are key details to discuss when working with a landscape contractor to develop a landscape plan. If done properly, a well-designed project can significantly reduce a property’s operating costs, while still keeping it attractive and impactful.

Native Landscaping

Plant selection is a critical element of sustainable landscaping. Native plants are accustomed to the climate and soil conditions that allow them to flourish with minimal care and assistance. Using native plants significantly reduces water, fertilizer and pesticide needs. As native varieties are more naturally inclined to thrive in their natural habitats, they require less care and lessen overall associated labor costs. Using a wide variety of native species in landscape design will reduce the risk of widespread plant loss to a single disease. Opting for perennials over annuals when possible will also reduce material and maintenance costs. Furthermore, the ecosystem will benefit from native landscaping, since birds, butterflies and other local fauna thrive in the natural sanctuary.

Seek guidance from a landscape professional when planning the new landscape. Planning and placement is everything. Professional landscapers can help hotel owners identify specific types of trees, shrubs and plants that are suited for particular reasons and needs. For instance, areas of the property where the trees should be planted are key decisions. Trees can provide summer shade for buildings, pedestrians or parking areas, which can keep air conditioning costs down and comfort levels up. Those same well-placed trees lose their leaves in the winter and let the warmth of the sun into those same areas for cold-season comfort; again, helping reduce heating costs.

The size and growth potential for trees and shrubs are also important factors to take into consideration. While a shrub, ornamental tree, or plant may look attractive in an area when small, anyone planning a landscape must consider how large the plant will become when it matures. A plant that is poorly placed may require excessive pruning to keep its branches away from sidewalks or parking places. Over-pruning can cause poor plant health and detract from the natural beauty of the plant. Native flowering shrubs can be strategically placed, and smaller native plants can be added to create a flow and scale to fit a particular property.

Proper Landscape Management

A starting point in developing a plan to more efficiently utilize resources and keep a hotel landscape green and healthy in all seasons is to partner with a professional landscape management company. A company such as this will have the skilled personnel available who are capable of understanding the needs of each business and its property. By utilizing the knowledge and resources of a professional landscape contractor who specializes in the needs of local area plants, trees, gardens and landscapes, the most appropriate planning can be detailed to best suit any hotel grounds. In addition to reducing the negative environmental and financial impact, working with a qualified landscape contractor can help to incorporate green practices into a hotel’s grounds maintenance. This can help to establish a practical and efficient way to conserve water and energy, reduce labor and material costs and keep a hotel property looking its best.

By combining professional assessment with careful planning and regular maintenance, hotel owners and managers can stay within budget while still showcasing a property in its best light. Proper irrigation, periodic landscape renovations and proper maintenance can lower a hotel’s landscaping expenses without detracting from the look, presentation or health of the grounds. Also, while native plant varieties nicely complement a hotel’s aesthetic, they often require less watering and care to thrive. By partnering with a professional, local landscape contractor, hotel owners and managers can ensure the most appropriate practices will be put into place. The tips above can help bring a healthy look to any exterior and present a lasting impression of a hotel landscape, all without breaking the bank.

This article originally appeared on HotelExecutive.com.

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